Our Children, Young People and Families Lead Jo Holmes has welcomed a new report into university information sharing practices and student suicide.

The study Information sharing and student suicide has been carried out by our Universities and Colleges division and University Mental health Advisers Network, and is based on a survey of the organisations’ members.

Its recommendations include developing sector-wide information sharing principles and common codes of practice, as well as reviewing decision making and data collection processes, and working with the NHS to clarify boundaries and establish processes.

Student centred

Jo said: “The report raises valuable points about the consistency that’s needed across services and the need for appropriate policies and procedures being in place to best respond to students struggling with their mental health.

“The recommendations are student centred, which is to be welcomed.

“They acknowledge students have the same right to confidentiality, linked to their mental capacity, as the general adult population and that when information is passed on and shared, they must be central to this decision.”

The authors say the report aims to "explore the complexities of what is being intimated by external bodies and Government in terms of creating different information sharing practices for adult students than the rest of the population, alongside highlighting the need for an accurate reflection of what is already happening on the ground".

The report says: “Student suicide is an understandably emotive topic; in addition to the loss of an individual, the impact is felt deeply by family, friends, peers and a wide range of staff.

“There is an urgent need for universities to develop explicit and clearer policies around information sharing.

“Students need reassurances that their confidential information remains so; and our member survey shows an accurate picture of how and when information is currently shared – with the student at the centre.”


Professor Andrew Reeves, our former Chair and Professor in Counselling Professions and Mental Health, also welcomed the “much-needed and invaluable report conducted by two of the leading mental health associations in the university sector”.

He said: “The tenet of the success of such services is that of trust and, in turn, confidentiality is a central tenet of trust building.

“Any move to undermine or compromise the trust built between student and helper will, without doubt, undermine the very efficacy of those services and skills used to determine risk and inform the most appropriate responses.”

Piers Wilkinson, Student Voice Commissioner - Disabled Students' Commission, added: “Mental health is a particularly challenging topic for students to talk about, and ensuring that disabled students have confidence and trust in higher education institutions for when they need to access support services is essential.

“Particularly when fitness to study and fitness to practice processes can be triggered as a result of disclosing mental health challenges, and coupled with the existing societal stigma, it is important for institutions to get it right when it comes to information sharing.”